Saturday, June 29

Remedial Instruction For English Language Teaching Workshop

Upon completion of the course, every participant received an extremely rare certificate from the US embassy.
During the 2 week holiday a month ago, I was called up at the last minute to attend one of the best workshops I have ever had the privilege of attending. A group of teachers from Sabah could not obtain flights to Kuching so their slots opened up for Secondary School teachers in Kuching who were available. Many senior teachers had travel plans so, eventually, I got a phone call from JPN Sarawak's English Language Officer about the course. I jumped at the opportunity.

We were trained by Dr Kay Davis, a specialist who flew all the way from the US.
While I was wearing 3 layers in our air-conditioned room, she was sweating. Lol.
This workshop is a partnership between our MOE & the US embassy. This was one of the best workshops I've ever attended because it was tailored exactly to the needs of my students. 90% of which are low proficiency students sitting at the borderline.

We had the privilege of being trained by an unbelievably experienced specialist from the US who had taught in third world countries, like Africa & the Middle East, where comforts & resources are scarce. She had to work in extreme conditions & teach English in a setting where the language is a foreign language to students who have had very little exposure to the language. Sounds very much like my situation except mine would comparatively be more like a walk in the park.
She spoke her mind & she was not afraid to question what she thought was wrong in both our country & hers. I respected her a whole lot for that. She has an unimaginably strong background in education & she has every right to be heard. I wish that we could ask the same questions & not be mistaken as anti-establishment. As a common teacher, we are told to shut up & do as we are told. Imagine the kind of slur we'd get if we questioned any policy.

Some of the activities we took part in.
Throughout the 5 day course, we were exposed to ideas, articles, activities & games which could be used with remedial students & which required very little resources.
I will apply as many of these as I can before the end of the year & share them with you on my blog so that we may all benefit.

I got to rub shoulders with many accomplished teachers & listen to their stories about their past struggles & their latest achievements. I received many practical tips for my classrooms too just by sitting with them during lunch or dinner or going out for coffee. This is one of my favourite things about attending courses/workshops.

We had lots and lots of group work & discussion. Perhaps we should do more of this in our classrooms?
Anyway, I'm really impressed with the direction our ministry is going nowadays.
During this course, we were told that the ministry is currently focused on the remedial students in Form 1 & Form 2. It's about time we moved the focus from enriching our best students to looking at how to uplift remedial students who most probably make up the bulk of Malaysian students. They require a different approach from those with better proficiency.

The course coordinators requested that whatever was learned during the course be implemented on the Form 1 & Form 2. That is a brilliant idea. Start them young.
But, I do think that Form 1 might already be too late. They should really begin at the primary school level. Still, I guess there will be remedial students at every level & they need to be given adequate care.
I do hope that school administrators will start to see that these developing years are really important & start to allocate better teachers into these classes instead of placing all of them in the exam classes.

The participants & the people who made it happen.
I am really thankful to the ELO for personally calling me up to invite me to this workshop. It has really benefited me a lot & I am hoping to implement what I have learned. Hopefully, I will be able to execute well & create plenty of opportunities for authentic learning for my students.

Meanwhile, I'm going to try my best to invite my trainer, Dr Kay, the embassy rep, Rosie & other reps from the US embassy to my jungle school. It'll be unbelievably epic for my students who have never seen Westerners before. It'll also really blow their minds! And, hopefully, push them to attempt greater aspirations.

Pray for my success & stay tuned as I apply what I've learned during the workshop & share them with you on my blog.

Sunday, June 23

Slides from My English Language PMR Exam Talks

Here's a special treat for all the Form 3 English Language teachers!!!
Last Friday, my PK1 informed me that a school in Bintulu asked if I was available to give a talk at their school. Tonight, a colleague came to my house & confirmed the name of the school & the name of the requesting teacher. Apparently, this teacher had no idea how to contact me so she asked my friend's girlfriend to ask him if he could ask me if I would do it.
Honestly, how hard is it to Google up my name or the name of my school & find me. Jeez.
Also, how did she hear about me if not for my blog or my fb page? I would love to know.

I would prefer that people, who want me to conduct any talks, contact me directly so that we can both find out if I am really what they need.
No need to waste time & effort to go through proxies only to find out that it was all for naught.

Being invited to hold this talk & hearing its justification (teachers no experience, have no idea who to ask), really made me feel for all the teachers out there who are hungry to learn but have nowhere to go or have no idea how to use Google.
I thought about it long & hard because these slides were the fruit of a lot of hard work searching, reading, analysing, networking, begging, bribing, typing, composing, editing & revising every year.

I am not an examiner. I have never been one. But I have talked to plenty & learned from many.
Also, I have always been a proponent of sharing & have an open door policy to any teacher who seeks my counsel. Mainly because my predecessors & teachers I look up to have set a good example of generosity for me to follow.
Arthur Wee & Richard Tham amongst my most generous of contributors.

In the end, here you go... a democratisation of information.
Here are the slides I have used in 2012 to good results.
Here is 4 years worth of my experience preparing Form 3 students for PMR.
Use it as you wish but do not be selfish as I have not been selfish with you.

Thursday, June 20

State Pidato Competition For Teachers

Wonderfully done banner hanging at the wharf. Good job, designer!
This competition was held in conjunction with the state level Teacher's Day celebration. This year, it was the turn of PPD Kapit to host the celebration.
I had a really packed schedule prior to the competition. Before this Pidato competition on Monday, I had a conference presentation on Saturday. Before the presentation, I was working on the paperwork for my nomination in the Anugerah Khas Ketua Menteri Sarawak.
The lack of sleep, pressure & intensity of labour I experienced during those 2 weeks were no laughing matter.

I was informally asked if I would like to join about this competition when I met a PPD officer during the Hari Kadet Polis I attended 3 weeks before. I was aware of the staggering amount of commitments I had so I politely asked for this competition to be assigned to another teacher.
One week before the competition, as I was representing my school during the Song PSKPP sports tournament, I was told that they could not find another teacher to take the competition. I laughed at that statement.

Come on. Kapit is actually really big. There are 3 districts under PPD Kapit: Song, Bellaga & Kapit. Within those districts are 7 secondary schools & more than 50 primary schools. Don't tell me you cannot find 1 English teacher who is unoccupied & willing to learn. You had to pick the busy bee all the way in the middle of the jungle me.
Anyway, I accepted because the PPD Song officers, who have always been very kind to me, approached me asked me nicely for my help. I did it for PPD Song. Not PPD Kapit.

That was a little bit of background story for your learning. Sometimes teachers who have a reputation for work get even more work pushed onto them not because the people doing the pushing think that they are the best for it. The reason is as simple as because it is easier to push it onto them.
That my friend... is the reality of teaching. You've got to learn Tai-Chi because not all administrators are fair or able to move human capital who are unwilling to be moved.

I had to depend on smartphone cameras for my photographs. Lol. This was the best.
Anyway, let's move on to the actual competition itself. I treated the competition as an English style public speaking where I was free to interpret the topic, speak about it in an interesting manner & motivate. Basically, I was somewhat of a clown on stage.
How embarrassing because I was nowhere near the mark. It was supposed to be the BM style Pidato with the eloquent spewing of facts, figures, statistics, government policies, etc. Very formal stuff.
There were lots of really good speakers during the competition & I learned a lot just from watching them & listening to them. One of them even brought realia onto the stage to illustrate her point.

The participants of the BI Pidato.
I learned a lot from this experience & I also got to know a lot of good teachers from all over Sarawak. I built new friendships & strengthened older ones (shoutout to Vimala & Norfarhana!). All in all, I gained a lot from this competition.
Even though undesired things will be pushed onto us, we should still make the best of it & take advantage of any opportunity that arises from it. Use it to our advantage. On our terms.

An English Teacher's Response To Berita Harian's "70 Peratus Guru BI Tak Fasih"

Here's the article I'm responding to.
If you haven't read the article from Berita Harian, you can read it here.
A lot of people have asked me for my opinion on this & so let me make an official one here.
Also, take note that it was mentioned by a minister who wanted to advice teachers on beefing up their English proficiency during an event for students.
Why talk about teachers at an event for students? I will never know.
Anyway, I usually take anything a politician says with a pinch of salt (both opposition & government). I think you should too.


An earlier article about the CPT results. Might not be the earliest.
I don't know what the fuss is all about. This is actually old news.
Those of you who have been with me on my FB Page would have read my numerous comments about CPT & read my CPT guide.
Also, do take note that The Star reported that the number of English teachers who were not proficient was 2/3 of the 70,000 who took the test.
Not 70%. 2/3 is more like 66.66%.
A little too far to round up to 70%, no? But, it has achieved it's intended shock effect.

UPDATE 20/6/2013: I just realised that there have been ongoing tests since then so the statistics might have changed since the article from The Star.


Here's another Berita Harian Article with actual numbers.
According to the Berita Harian article above, out of 70k English language teachers in Malaysia, 33k are non-optionists.
That means 33k English teachers are not actually English teachers. They are teachers trained to teach BM, Sejarah, Japanese, PJK, Science, Math, etc. I suspect that the bulk of failures came from these non-optionists.
Can we really blame a BM teacher for failing a BI test? No.
Can we blame a BM teacher for not being able to teach BI well? No.


Non-Optionists/Total of English L Teachers = Percentage of Non-Optionists
33,000/70,000 = 47%

Non-optionists are only 47% of the teachers teaching BI. A total of 67% failed CPT. What about the other 20%?
OH SNAP!! They must have come from the optionists themselves! What are the numbers?

20% X Total English Language Teachers = Total of Failing English Optionists
20% X 70,000 = 14,000

14k out of 37k English Optionists failed CPT! That is a big amount! The percentage?

Total of Failing English Optionists/Total of English Optionists = Percentage of Failing Optionists
14,000/37,000 = 38%

38% of English Language Optionists failed CPT!! That's 2 out of 5 English Optionists!!!

This raises a lot of questions about the recruitment & vetting of prospective English teachers.
Don't we have plenty of interviews before teachers are confirmed? Why weren't they weeded out then? What about during their tertiary years?

Also, what have they done to retain talented English teachers?
I know many talented ones who have left for greener pastures. I dread to think about what is left behind after the best have left.
Actually, they left me behind... so... I must be... =(


The CPT results have been out for nearly a year now & ALL the teachers who took it, have NO idea how they did. Personal results were kept secret for unknown reasons. Apparently, only high ranking officers in the Education Ministry have access to the results.
I don't think it's much of a secret now, is it? Why not let us know how we did personally?

If I knew that I did badly, I'd work on it just like the minister in this article advised.
Since I don't know how I did, I might as well consider myself one of the 3,000 CPT high-achievers, which, of course, I obviously am.

I guess teachers can't be trusted so we'll just wait for the man to call us up for the Pro-ELT course & use up the precious time we could be spending on more meaningful school work or, a personal favourite, REST.
The teachers called up for these courses would be the only ones with the privilege of finding out their results because only those in the B Band would be called for this course.

For those of us in the C & A Bands, I guess we'll keep on guessing & strutting into class like a boss.

Sunday, June 2

English Language Teaching & Learning International Seminar 2013

I was very honoured & blessed to have been personally invited to conduct a workshop at the English Language Teaching & Learning International Seminar 2013 at the Four Points by Sheraton in Kuching. It was a conference for Primary School teachers organised by IPG Batu Lintang & Brighton Education Learning Services.
This is my FIRST ever conference presentation!

The focus was on activities that the participants could take back & immediately apply to their classroom so I decided to share some of the activities I have been doing in my own classroom. I gave examples of project-based activities which would allow students to practice their language skills (Reading, Writing, Listening & Speaking) in a meaningful context. It was nothing special or out of this world. It was something simple that any teacher could replicate. I will probably write a dedicated blog post about them in the future.
I am in no way an expert. But I am willing to learn & share what I know. I believe that, together, we have more.

Many interesting speakers & presenters were present.
I had a good time building my network & learning from these great minds.
I met up with a past course-mate, juniors (some of which are lecturers), a past teacher & many talented trainees.
I was very impressed with the work displayed by the trainees from IPG BL. As I visited their booths, I had a sense that they will make a big difference in our education system. The future looks a bit brighter for the children in Sarawak.
More of their impressive work.
My prayer & hope is that their spark will never die out. Instead, it would spread & grow into uncontrollable passion.
I conducted a workshop entitled "From Students To Students".
I shared activities I used in my classrooms to make the practise of language skills more meaningful.
I.e. Pen-Pal Project, Show & Tell, Tell Me A Story. I'll write a dedicated post in the future.
The teachers in Sarawak who kindly attended my workshop & contributed produced material that I will share with my students after the holidays. Do you know any of them?
As promised, here are my Power-point slides. Feel free to use it for whatever positive ends.

I don't have a problem speaking in front of my students but it was a whole different thing speaking to a room full of adults/teachers. Fortunately, I had a really good crowd who participated & contributed. I sincerely hope that I had added something of value to them & I wish them well in their classrooms.

I learned a lot from this experience even though I do not feel that I have something so unique & special that I had to share it at a conference. But this has a great encouragement for me in the direction of innovation & creativity in the classroom. This also makes me feel that my work in the jungle is noticed & appreciated by people miles away. I am motivated to do what I'm doing & improve on it.

Also, seeing what some of the trainees were able to do was really humbling & I can never in my wildest dreams produce such excellent work. I do hope that they bring their creativity into their classrooms & have the determination to weather the challenges of being a teacher in Malaysia.

You may view all my pictures of the conference here.

Footnote: Dear teachers, at times, we have to invest our own money in our own professional development. Did you know that I had to foot the bill to attend this conference? My conference fee was waived because I was a presenter but there was still the cost of travelling from my school in the jungle to Kuching and back.
I did request for my transportation costs to be claimable with PPD Kapit but I was ignored after continuous requests with the necessary paperwork. It was easy to ignore me because I was so far away & could only be in contact via phone. I guess teachers in Kapit are not encouraged to present their work at conferences.
Nonetheless, no teacher should let cost stand in their way. If you want to attend a course/conference & your PPD is not supportive, do not be discouraged, you are not alone &, if you go at your own expense, it will be even more meaningful.
We have the power to empower ourselves.

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